Shure SE535 Ltd Review

We have to say, this Shure SE535 Limited Edition Review was one of our most enjoyable reviews to do. For years we have dreamt of spending hours listening to these since they were a Japan/Asia only model (slightly different specs for Asia and Americas we understand – only slightly). The Shure SE535LTD or Limited Edition come in one colour, RED. If colour is important to you then you still have the options of the SE535 Clear and SE535 Bronze – while they have a slightly different sound signature, they are still Shure and still sound amazing. The SE535LTD have a few defining elements worth pointing out.

  • The first is that they fit beautifully and have a nice profile in the ear. Possibly the most comfortable IEM’s we have worn, even beating the Westone UM Pro 50’s.
  • A second is that they come with the iPhone compatible cables (2 in fact) which make these a great choice for commuters.
  • The third would be they have a wonderful sound signature (if it suits you, more on that below).
  • The fourth element, which we feel worth mentioning as we really weren’t sure at first, is that RED is a cool colour for these IEM earphones.

Shure SE535Ltd Tech Specs

Sensitivity – 119 dB SPL/mW
Frequency Range – 18Hz – 19.5kHz
Cable Style – 2 detachable remote + mic cables: 57” M+ Cable for iPhone, 57” M Cable for other music enabled phones with 3.5 mm jack
Colour – Limited Edition Red
Speaker Type – Triple High-Definition MicroDrivers

Bass Notes

It seems wrong to lead with the bass notes for the SE535 LTD as it is the most contentious point for these IEM’s. For some the Bass is punchy and satisfying, for others the bass is punchy but slightly lacking for what they want. Personally we felt the bass does sit back in the mix a little bit, but it is punchy and tight. We loved the feel and wanted a little more. The longer we listened the these Limited Editions the more we became acustomed to the bass signature and it grew on us. Like coffee and beer sometimes you just have to try it for a while to like it.

Mid Notes

Oh my, oh my. This is where the magic starts to happen. The soundscape is broad and open, the detailing is delightful and the instrumentation is rich. This is why these earphones get 4-5* ratings as the norm. Be warned though, if your recordings are poor quality you might want to upgrade to a higher quality or these are going to make your music sound like the poor cousin. The better the audio source, the better these perform. 

High Notes (Treble)

Nice nice nice. Some say these roll-off at the higher frequencies and we can see why, but for the majority or users the treble on these sits well balanced with the mids. They continue to accent the great sound stage and crisp sound signature. 

PRAT (Pace, Rhythm and Timing)

Bang on. All time, everytime. This is something Shure get right everytime in our opinion. 

Emotional Quotient (EQ)

The bass signals for some people that want lots of bass might mean you don’t get the EQ from these. For us, we definitely loved these and felt the EQ especially on tracks like Neon Cathedral by Macklemore and Hush Yael by Oh Sleeper (get the story and it’s a moving song…honest!). 

Noise Isolation

Excellent like all IEM’s with the right foams. Would consider even getting custom moulds done for these beauties. 

Build Quality

Both excellent and impressive. It’s not till you get these in your hands till you realise they are a tightly designed unit that fits and feels fantastic in the ears.

SE535-LTD Accessories

These come with:

  • Foam & Soft Flex Sleeves (S, M & L)
  • Yellow Foam Sleeves
  • Triple Flange Sleeves
  • Carrying Case
  • 1/4″ Adapter
  • Volume Control
  • M Cable (for Music Enabled Phones)
  • M+ Cable (for Apple Products)

Shure SE535LTD Review Conclusion

We’ve had feedback from customers who listen to a lot of Dubstep and Drum & Bass and they rave about the SE535 Limited Edition, even after previously owning a pair of SE535. For us some Skrillex and Jay Z did sound great through these. Some of the mid-level produced rock like The Fray and Imagine Dragons didn’t resonate as strong as some would like but we still liked it.

Other genres including Classical, Metal, R&B, Folk, Alternative came through strong – these handled everything well.

We LOVE everything about these earphones and if it seems we have laboured the bass issue it’s only because in earphones that are so nice for the price, the bass response was the only thing we could pick on. 

If you like these but need more Bass try the Westone W50, Westone UM Pro 50 or the Shure SE846…but you’ll have a pay a little more. 🙂

Westone W10 Review

When we first put the Westone W10’s in we took a walk around the building to see if we indeed had created a good seal with the earbuds. We knew if the noise isolation made it impossible to hear the elevators and traffic noise, not to mention the hipster bike riders on the seawall, we had it right. It was a little surprising for us that we had to put a large foams tip in to get the best fit. This was not a completely unnerving experience as each headphone you try, especially IEM style headphones, sit differently in the ear, the angle and fit is different. Once we had the large foam tips on and we had a created seal, we began our listening journey with the Westone W10 earphones [UPDATE – turns out we didn’t look long enough at all the supplied tips – we found the perfect sized medium tips in the end = happy us].

Westone W10 Review notes

Well, let’s start by saying if you’re looking for some bass thumping, ground shaking, ampeg vibrating headphones then these are not them, but don’t go thinking these little delights are not worth adding to the mix. The problem with so much of the audio world is that they think if the bass is not socking you in the stomach then they can’t be a decent pair of headphones, this is a shame as the W10’s are a great example of headphones under $200 that offer beautiful sound, they just might suit different people based on the music they prefer to listen to. Often the artificial boosting of bass just hides the true nature of headphones.

Review song list notes

What song list?

  • First we started with our favourite Pink Floyd track Comfortably Numb – the solo stood out nicely and the general soundscape was very well balanced. Nothing stood out and slapped us but it was a pleasant listen.
  • Settle Down by Kimbra really sounds delicious in the intro – the bass comes in nicely but not overwhelmingly. This track has very low bass mixed which didn’t stand out here but the vocals sounded breathy and the soundscape could really be noticed on this one.
  • 9 Crimes by Damien Rice was a clearer intro than we are used to, the Piano on this track is typically muffled but was nice and clear on this – very typical sound from an upright piano. The reverb could be heard nicely in Lisa Hannigan’s vocal. The tympani/bass tom tom sounds that come in is once again natural but not over the top at all.
  • Claire de lune by Debussy played by Kun-Woo Paik was lovely and started to really show the sweetness of the highs on these earphones, surprisingly natural, again and a pleasure to listen to. You won’t get the heavy deep left-hand notes overwhelming you and the sound is sweet.
  • Mr Brightside from the Killers starts really nicely – we always choose this track as it’s such a blended noise that if you can separate the sounds/instruments you know the headphones are doing pretty well. This track didn’t delight as much as it really relies on the heavy kick and thumping bass to keep it’s momentum. 
  • Mozart No. 40-2 sounds beautiful, a classical music lovers delight for sure. 
  • Equally the Four Seasons from Vivaldi sound really live and natural and you can hear the quality of the Violin as he plays on and on. Here you start to feel the W10’s know how to bring strings to life.
  • Moonilght Sonata from Beethoven presents the reverberating piano strings nicely – again – not heavy left handed notes but delightful overall sound. 
  • By this point we had started to wonder if we could find anything to bring a new dynamic to the W10’s which we definitely found with Sohn – Lights. This track sound fantastic – the bass, the balance, the soundscape really blew us away. It’s hard to say why the W10’s don’t produce this wonderful bass for all the above tracks but we certainly enjoyed this track immensely – again, the word natural sums up the sound but the reverb on the vocals and stereo mixing of the effects was awesome. The bass sits nicely at the bottom without stealing the limelight from the rest of the instrumentation. 
  • Finally Skrillex kicks in with an album mastered so deep you might think they were trying to make the antipodes hear it. This track also failed to reach super low frequencies but really surprised us, after all the other tracks as to how nice this track sounded. It might not make you think you’re in the club but it pulled out all the other musical elements of the song so we almost felt we were listening to a whole new song mix.Bass NotesIn keeping with all the above notes we can only sum up that the W10’s sound natural. They don’t fail to product bass, they just don’t pull it to the front of the mix. The Sohn track still amazes us when the bottom keyboard notes kick in but that doesn’t mean we would recommend these to bass fanatics.Mid NotesThe mids don’t sit too far forward but definitely take center stage for these earphones. They bring mids out of most music and show you tones you might not have noticed before. The frequencies here are really well balanced and not one frequency stands too far forward from the rest. This makes for nice listening for long periods of time.High NotesTreble and high frequencies are such a personal thing and a lot of people, after years of abuse with inferior earphones, can’t hear the highs that perhaps they could have as young’uns. For this reason we believe the highs on these will please most all people. They are not screechy or too sharp – they product sweet notes without making you cringe or turn down the volume. The Sohn track and the solo on Comfortably numb represent this well.Noise IsolationBottom line – as good as any. No complaints here. On the train, in the office, at home these things block the noise nicely with the right fitting foams and a good seal.Build QualityThe Westone 10’s cable is a farily fine wiring but is quite pleasant if you commute. You don’t have to wrestle the cable over your ears. AccessoriesWestone excel when it comes to accessories. You get three different coloured faceplates, two cables (with one having 3 button iOS/Phone buttons/Mic on it), loads of tips for different sized ears.Westone W10 Review ConclusionThese produce a lovely sound. We think overall they are priced well but you need to probably have fairly regular listening tastes to make the most of them. If you are a classic music fan or love acoustic music these are great. If you listen to Jay Z and Armin van Buuren all the time, you’ll get something new from these, but you might not really ‘get’ what these headphones are trying to achieve. For balance we continued to listen to Sohn with the Veto track which again, made us really like these earphones. We also listened to Gravedigger by Dave Matthews, Live are Radio City with Tim Reynolds which is another example of how nice acoustic music is through these, as did the whole album.
  • The more we listened to music through these earphones the more we wanted to keep listening and they really grew on us. They can be summed up in a few words – Natural sound and Balanced sound.

Shure SE215 Review

We’ve owned 3 sets Shure IEM’s in the past 6 years. The first was a pair of EC2’s which we loved. They had some short comings though, clunky in size and you had to work on getting that seal just right which was mostly only possible with the foams rather than the flanges. You also looked pretty weird with these things sticking out the side.

The next two pairs were both SE215’s. We purchased the first pair and loved them. Then we lost them *insert tears and weeping here*. But we loved the first pair, didn’t have loads of cash, so we went around for a second pair.

We’re musicians but not once have we used them as IEM’s for live music monitoring. Only listening to music via iPod, iPhone or similar.

Awesome Value

The SE215, in our opinion, are one of the best sets of IEM earphones on the market under $150. Really really really. When we say that though there are a couple of things of note. The first is inline controls. If you love your iPhone and need access to volume up and down, pause, play and microphone controls all the time you’ll need to buy the additional cable which attaches to give you those controls. Buying the separate Cable which attaches to the in-ears has the inline controls. These 215’s are best worn like a rock star – that is over the ears and down the back. If you wear them front it’s perfectly cool, we only say this if you want a little American Idol rock star factor. You’ll can still put them over your ears and then down your front which gives you access to the inline controls (if you purchase the extra cable with iPhone/Mobile phone controls). We usually just use these as pure audio IEM earphones and use the controls on our phone.

NB: The inline controls model is different to the standard SE215 so don’t buy the standard assuming you get iPhone controls. The extra cable is available – let us know if you want it.

The benefits of running the cable down your back, inside your jacket or shirt, is that you never catch the cable on anything. You feel safe, secure and audibly awesome. Equally, you can run the cable down the front of your shirt or top, the microphonics are almost zero so there is no risk of scratchy noises coming up the wire.

These typically fit most people but if your ears are really small you you want to try some of the other earfoams in the pack, these are included and you’ll be able to find one to fit. You be able to get the audio foam in so the sound will be great – the beauty of these IEM’s is the snug fit in the ear. it’s a great feeling. We expect over 95% of people will have no problem at all.

Sound quality

Single drivers can’t compete with double, triple or quad but these still have a really great soundscape and with the right seal they produce a sound so typical of Shure IEM’s, and that is they sound alive – the music makes you feel it. It’s not a perfect soundscape but for lack of a more audiophile correct description, we can only say they make the adrenaline kick in and sound real. The problem with the SE215 is that they make you wonder how much more wonderful the SE315’s, SE425’s, SE535’s and SE846 must be.

The sound from the SE215’s with the addition of comfort and a good seal make these the best all round IEM’s in the under $150 category for us.

There is a real tightness in the sound while still allowing for sweet acoustics. We’ve put almost everything through these things from Oh Sleeper to Damien Rice, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Eminem and Florence and the Machine, Dire Straights to Al Di Meola. All are represented well. Some say the Bass in these is too heavy but we have to disagree, rather for the price the bass is impressive.

Compare to competition

We’ve compared these to the Bowers & Wilkins (B&W) C5 and Ultimate Ears UE600. The C5 feel too heavy in the bottom end and are better compared to a Bose set. The UE600 didn’t sit well and the sound didn’t grab us like the SE215’s did. Both good earphones sonically but didn’t have the alive feel of the SE215.

Conclusion

These are not new to market. In fact they have been around a while, but they stand up and demand to be counted. Shure do well to make sustainable earphones just like their SM58 microphone is still a standard in live music microphones. Being older means you can also get these a little cheaper which is good for consumers. We still think these IEM earphones stand as a great buy.

The SE215 we’ve been using have been in real world use for 3 years and are stilll going strong. For all the high end earphones we are lucky enough to review we still often come back to the SE215 and smile and the value for money.

Westone W60 Review

We’ve been excited about doing a Westone W60 review for a long time. Boasting 6 BA drivers each side we had high hopes of a wide soundscape showing off high highs and deep deeps. We weren’t disappointed at all but we did have to adjust one expectation and that was around the bass level – instead of smacking us in the face like an Ampeg stack we realized it wasn’t about the level of bass but the quality of the bass that Westone were going for here – and quality we got. Don’t get us wrong – you won’t be disappointed, in fact we’re smiling a little bit now just listening to a Jay-Z Bass line (insert adolescent smiley emoticon here[sic]). 

General notes about these IEM’s is their form factor. We expected with the additional drivers that these would be bulkier in size, they’re not. This is a pleasant surprise as it makes them perfect as a take anywhere unit.

The Westone W60 are part of the Signature Series, putting them in a class above the rest of the W series.
 

If you want the punchline early – these are the IEM for everyman. They took everything we threw at them with dignity and were comfy to wear for long periods of time. The soundscape and instrumental separation was great and we loved them.

Let’s get into the finer points here.

Bass notes

As many of you will already know we are fans of the UM Pro series. We like the unprocessed bass the Um Pro 50’s give us, however there are times certain mastering on different albums can result in the bass not standing out as much, it sits a little further back. The W60 made sure every track we hit sounded present and in attendance. It wasn’t over-bearing and never went too far away from the mix. If you want an Ampeg experience these won’t disappoint but maybe check out the SE846 too. Overall – very happy with the Bass on these – well balanced. It’s hard to find the words but again, it’s not about the level of bass but the quality here – the acoustic elements and true audio replication is obvious, tight and true. Cheaper units have bass levels the same, but there are times it all sounds the same – with these it’s all the way it was meant to be, as it was recorded and mastered. Try the XX Swept away if you want a good demo of Bass guitar and Bass drum playing together yet separated.

Mid Notes

There is nothing worse that snare drums and high-hats that sound like they are 10 meters closer to your ears than the rest of the music. Another compliment to the W60’s is their ability to bring hoe the meat in the music sandwich. We find the over missing of mids is one of the big causes of audio fatigue when listening for long periods of time. There was never a time we cringed and found we could turn these up a little higher without the mids overreaching themselves. So all good here. We managed to find notes and musical events in the music that we had never heard before, and to be honest that’s a big feat considering the sheer number IEM’s we get to play with.

High Notes (Treble)

We love treble – more than most. We always tweak the treble in the car stereo, the home stereo and more. It’s probably an indication of damaged hearing from too many years playing in front of a Mesa-Boogie or Vox AC30 amp turned up to 11. So, we always compensate for treble reviews based on this. Anyway, enough about our hearing issues, how do the W60’s do? All good. The guitar and vocals from Dave Matthews (live with Tim Reynolds at Radio City) and Damien Rice all come through sweet and sparkly. Some might want a teensy teensy bit more sibilance but I can’t lie – there were times I felt like Damien Rice was in my head. Partly because he likes to sing right on the mike for quiet parts and the W60’s let me know it.

Westone W60 Review - Canada

P.R.A.T

Yes. No more comments for this bit, just yes.

Emotional Quotient (EQ)

Yes – and if you’re not sure then put on an old album or track you love and sit back. We venture you’ll hear and feel things you haven’t heard before. These are balanced so you might not get the raw energy you get from other IEM’s but you won’t lament too much.. AEQ (Audio Emotional Quotient) is important to us.

Build Quality

Great. The cables always feel light but we’ve never had one die on us in all our time using Westone IEM’s. These are a nice sized, well made in-ear monitor

Noise Isolation

Find the right foams and these are as good as any. We can’t give the NRR figure but we’re writing this on a plane and we almost forgot we were on a plane.

Westone W60 Review Conclusion

We really said it at the beginning, these are great for everyman and every music. Westone have done an amazing job at producing an in-ear headphone that performs with everything you put through it. While the bass isn’t head shaking it is deep, honest and well balanced. If you have the money there is no reason to play with cheaper models – reach for the W60 and you’ll be able to step out the door to a plane, train, office, bus with an iPhone/iPod/insertyourplayerhere with confidence that what ever you have loaded will sound great. 

Caveat: If you have high end audio accessories, a quality DAC, lossless audio etc then you will get even better results with the W60. We like to review based on typical usage – that is a portable audio device with 256kbps-44Hz/512kbps level music quality. What we didn’t do that we think would be awesome is to run some tracks using a DAC and we expect they would perform even better. We did try some tracks with Tidal at around 1400kbps quality and wowee e.g London Grammar sounded insane.

Westone W30 Review

The Westone W30 are one Westone’s best sellers, and as a recent person reviewed he believed they sounded better than his older W4 series Westone IEM’s. We’ve never had a pair returned and that is always a good sign. We thought we’d use different reference tracks for this review and are using music from Tidal HiFi playlists. First track up is Paper Planes by Sleepwave and immediately you can feel the warmth that the W30’s give off. We spend a lot of time listening to the UM Pro 30 and UM Pro 50 so the difference in the W series is clearly different right out of the gate. The feel of the UM Pro series is often very very balanced. The W series have more consumer friendly feel to them – they’ve put time into sculpting the sound signature to be what you would expect for a broad listening audience.

The Westone W30 are a triple driver earphone with a crossover to help push the right frequencies to the right driver. Overall they are very comfortable – light and easy to wear for long periods of time.

Tech Specs

Let’s start with the geeky stuff and get that out of the way.

  • Sensitivity: 107 dB SPL @ 1 mW
  • Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 18 kHz
  • DRIVER: 3 balanced armature drivers with a 3-way crossover
  • CABLE LENGTH: 50” / 128 cm

Bass Notes

The Bass response is great. It is warm but for this price range you won’t be disappointed. 9 Crimes by Damien Rice is always one of the tracks we try out for Bass response. The opening sequence features a nice piano which is introduced to a deep bass/timpani thump in the intro. We always listen to see how much and how deep it sounds. These bring the intrumentation through nicely but not enough to make you feel like your standing next to it, but you’re not going to get that until you get up to the W50-W60 ranges. No complaints here – the bass felt good. Stepping up to music mixed to make you go boom, we tried some David Guetta with Sam Smith – Dangerous. The intro was wonderful – the strings sit in the back of your left ear and a clean and acoustic. The vocals some in strong and then it all builds up to a great sounding track. This was good but we felt these could go deeper with the right track so then we tried some Sohn and finally Eminem. Sohn was nice, you wouldn’t notice any fatigue listening for long periods be we still here was more here so we upped the mix to Skrillex. Overall these a well balanced and lows, mids and highs will never compete with each other.

Mid Notes

Some of the lower mid notes were warm at times but not so warm it became wooly. The higher mids are great. We like the mids on the W30 because they sit well balanced in the middle, where they should be. If you listen to acoustic music or classical these are going to step up your listening pleasure a lot. If you listen to rock or rap they will equally make you find new joys in some of your favourite tracks. Wicked Ways for Eminem does both the mids and bass good justice. We also took Pink Floyds – The Endless River for a walk knowing that the huge sound of Dave Gilmours guitar would let us know how the mids on the W30 were. No complaints – although it’s hard to complain about Dave Gilmours guitar work, even if it was through iPhone earphones..cough cough…

High Notes (Treble)

Treble is a funny thing for audiophiles and music lovers everywhere. Some love it sharp and ripping your head off, some like it a little rolled off, and some wouldn’t be able to tell you. The highs are balanced and clean. Not a hell of a lot of sibilance but not too much also. You would not find these difficult to listen to for long periods of time. The don’t ever make you wince at low or high volumes. At times the highs feel distance but still easy to make out. God Only Knows by She & Him show the mids and treble nicely with the clear acoustic guitar and front sitting vocals. 

Westone W30 Review Retail Box Canada

PRAT (Pace, Rhythm and Timing)

No complaints but we didn’t start rocking in our chair or anything. Listening to Faith No More’s Motherf***er has come nice pace to it which we really enjoyed. Tool’s Tix

Emotional Quotient (EQ)

This depends on what your playing. Not as high as others in the Westone and Shure range but you’ll not feel like anthing is missing either. 

Noise Isolation

Commuting on the Vancouver Skytrain or Toronto subway is way more enjoyable with some noise isolation – these achieve that. The trick is always to make sure you don’t restrict the sound when you compress the foams to get them in your ear, else it will sound like crap.

Build Quality

Great – no complaints. So light and easy to wear, very good for long flights, working at your desk for long periods or commuting.

Accessories

  • EPIC Replaceable cable and MFI G2 cable
  • Hard Case
  • Foams of many shapes and sizes
  • Cleaning tool
  • Optional cable with inline 3 button control and mic
  • Exchangable faceplate options = 3

Westone W30 Review Conclusion

Comfortable, great sound and great build quality. You’re not going to have a lot of complaints about the W30. Well balanced and a good range to boot. These don’t have the EQ that IEM’s at the $500 have but everything else is here for a complete package.

Westone UM Pro 50 Review

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Westone UM Pro 50 both look and sound great.

Everyone knows we love the Westone UM Pro 30 from the review we did, so it would make sense that we would like the Um Pro 50 even more, right? Well, to be honest, we weren’t sure at first so we decided to give them some time and see what it was that didn’t grab us initially.  

Ultimately these earphones have a very neutral, balanced soundscape. We were thinking for the step up in the series we would get personal music listening utopia. Then we realised what we expected is more the domain of the W50 and W60 when it comes to listening to our iPhone. So let us explain what did make us fall in love with the UM Pro 50, because we did fall in love with them. 

1: UM Pro 50 Comfort

Like all IEM over the ear style in-ear monitors, it can take a little time to get used to how they sit best in your ear. Maybe this is just our issue as we review so many earphones from other companies like Shure etc.  Once we found our best angle we forgot they were there.

Using the default, short, medium foam tips we found the seal to be perfect and there was never slant pressure on the ear. They also have a comfortable semi-firm mould on the over the ear part of the cable.  

2: Sound Neutrality

We never got tired listening to the UM Pro 50s. They just served a full balanced sound song after song, album after album. We never felt fatigued or irritated by the presentation of the sound. No frequency became jarring or made us wince.

They were pleasant even after hours of listening.  

Now to the normal review criteria. …. 

Tech Specs

  • Frequency: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
  • Impedance: 45 ohms  @ 1kHz
  • Drivers: 5 Balanced armature drivers with a 3-way crossover (passive)
  • Cable Length: 50”/128cm
  • 2 Yr Warranty 

Bass Notes

The UM Pro 50s have a much bigger bass profile than the UM Pro 30s. We wouldn’t say that necessarily means they go a lot deeper but there is more of it, it’s wider and more filled out.

For live use as a musician these will make you feel a little more a part of emotional band experience as opposed to feeling stuck in a tin can be mixed by a fold-back engineer while you’re performing – that is if you use 2 IEM’s in your ears at the same time on stage.

For personal music listening, these represented well. We played everything we could and some recordings felt well suited, although they didn’t let us down on anything. The bass is not inflated, this is typical of the whole UM Pro range but that doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Skrillex, Six 60, Kimbra, Avicii – Addicted to You (which has an opening kick drop that hits hard), it all sounds tight but doesn’t have the nightclub fatness you might want and would be better getting from the W50 or W60 from Westone.

This balanced firm bass makes the earphones enjoyable and natural. All the bass you need and nothing you don’t. You never get tired or feel abused wearing these. If you’re on your own working you can get all the richness with mid volumes, if you are commuting you might find you give one more touch on the volume button to help overcome the background noise. 

Mid notes

Fabulous – neutral and clear, and a nice soundscape. Here again, Ed Sheeran’s X album felt so live we were almost there. Acoustic loveliness and vocal wonder. We loved them and you will too.  

As regular readers will know we love mids that bring true Snare sounds through – these do that. We found most Snare and High Hat sounds to be true to life which we like a lot. They also don’t push the sharpness of the mids, e.g. a hard snare hit, too hard.

This means long term listening is comfortable. 

High Notes (Treble)

We have a real love of high, crisp treble and often can be seen tweaking the EQ, or Parametric EQ to get more sssss ‘sibilance’ in the sounds.

The UM Pro 50 has a lovely high end but it’s not super over the top. The frequencies are balanced with the overall sound. This is another reason these things are so easy to wear all day long. 

PRAT (Pace, Rhythm and Timing)

The Pro 30’s are well balanced in-ear monitors. Sometimes that means you can lose some ‘life’ in the music, something Shure do well with. Overall though we would recommend these to anyone as they are anyone’s earphones.

They have PRAT, it’s good and some music will make you feel it more than other music. 

Emotional Quotient (EQ)

These will have you feeling the music. We haven’t cried yet or punched our fist to the sky but you will feel it where it gets you and that little grin will creep across your face.

Noise Isolation

Get a good seal with right foam tips and you’ll have no complaints about noise-isolation here. On a flight from Toronto to Vancouver these were so comfortable we didn’t bother swathing to our regular Bose QC15’s.

Didn’t feel the need and these were so easy to leave in after take-off. 

Build Quality

Nice – solid housing, the cable is great and it comes with the Westone mini-monitor vault which is a very good place to store your expensive in-ear monitors 

Accessories

  • These come with a full range of foam tips.
  • An EPIC cable with moulded over the ear bits (make them more comfortable).
  • Mini-monitor Vault.
  • Cleaning Tool. 

The cable is a MMCX Audio Cable so you can always swap this out for another cable if you prefer. See update below for bluetooth cable options for these Westone Pro 50 and any other Westone or Shure units using MMCX connectors.

Westone UM Pro 50 Review Conclusion

 Overall, everything we pushed through these things was great. If anything the quality of these was as dependant as the music we put through them as much as it was on whether the UM Pro 50 could handle it.  

Jay Z sounded superb. Hard rock was good and heavier music equally fun. Simon and Garfunkel sounded fresh, yet classic. Ed Sheeran’s X was a great listen as there was a lot of upfront vocal and acoustic guitar. Skrillex sounded tight and deep – not like you were travelling in a VW GTi with the back seat dedicated to a subwoofer, it’s was balanced. Radiohead – Feral makes the snare sound real and the bass blues along the bottom nicely.  

We could go on and on.

Value for money? Yes – really well priced.

Update – July 2019 – bluetooth cable with mmcx connector

We’ve started to use these when running and have attached an affordable MMCX Bluetooth audio cable. There are a few options for this below that all have MMCX connectors so will fit the UM Pro 50 perfectly.

The benefit is great for connecting to our smartwatch when running so we don’t need to take our phone. They all have microphones and controls also.

  • MEE Audio BTX2 (was $59.99 at time of posting)
  • Shure RMCE-BT2 (was $149 at time of posting) – this is the second generate cable for Shure. They have improved this from the first model which was fine, this is just better.
  • Westone Bluetooth V2 Earphone & in-Ear Monitor Cable (was $149 at time of posting) – like Shure, Westone launched a version one of this and improved it in version two. These are more expensive than the MEE BTX2 so sometimes the budget might dictate what you choose.
  • TENNMAK Run PRO MMCX Bluetooth Cable (was $29.99 at time of posting)- We bought the Tennmak neckband as an experiment and it’s still doing fine so we haven’t replaced it.

Check pricing and availability for the UM Pro 50 on Amazon

Westone UM Pro 30 Review

In a word the Westone UM Pro 30 are crisp. In many more words they are a beautifully balanced, yet unbalanced, earphone that presents a surprisingly live sound stage. Kick drums, snares and high hats actually sound like such. The sound of fingers on the Bass notes make you feel close and the Guitar and Vocal sounds are beautiful.

At this price point, we’ve become huge fans of these IEM’s. Like all good IEM’s you have to give these time to settle in. Don’t put them in and play the first 10 seconds of your favourite songs and skip to the next. You need to put them in, put on a playlist or album and then just chill and live for a bit – there will be a moment where you go…wow…these things are beautiful (in our assumption of course).

If you like a more ‘prepared and mastered for typical outputs’ then the Westone W30 in ear monitor earphones will likely be your better choice as they push a few of the frequencies like Kick Drum and bass a little higher on the edges of the frequency curves to fatten out the sound a little. You might find these sound a little thin in spots because of it. We embraced this and felt the clarity and mid/treble crispness of the sounds to be amazing and as true to live [sic] as any earphones we’ve listened to.

These UM Pro 30 IEM’s follow on from the former UM3x model from Westone.

Bass Notes

The Bass on these took a while to really notice, strange to say, but sometimes you go into a review of a 3 (triple) driver IEM earphone with Balance Armatures (BA) expecting the Bass to hit you hard and fast. It didn’t, but let us say when it did become apparent that these headphones didn’t boost bass artificially, the bass we heard we came to absolutely love – it was very honest and very true to recording. It was really there when it needed to be, and that’s what mattered.

We stepped outside our normal review song list and tried a few new tunes including Rock like the Fray, the Killers and even some heavier notes like Underoath and Oh Sleeper. In all these the kick drum was there, felt live, but wasn’t overtly dominant, the bass strong and deep but clear, not muddied (and the guitar and vocals were simply sonic in a good way).

When switching to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Jimmy Iovine we got really excited how deep they went (felt close to 20-30hz). We then rounded off with Sohn – Lights and by then we were almost in heaven – even quite emotional that perhaps these headphones could finally fulfil our ideal sound profile for under $400.

There were times we turned these up one click just bring more of the bottom end and drum kick through one more level which didn’t hurt but made almost perfect, not quite perfect. But at this price point, we can live with that.

Mid Notes

The mids is where the magic happened – with some nice treble over the top the mids were able to really provide a crisp and clear sound signature. Electric guitars and Vocals were particularly clear and when you hear the fingers or pick on Bass notes you feel like you might just be sitting in the studio next to the band as they do a live take. The more we listened the better we liked it.

Surprisingly we tried Gravedigger by Dave Matthews live with Tim Reynolds but were not as grabbed at first – possibly because everything else has over impressed us, but then we played some Damien Rice and Passenger and were reminded how nice the acoustics were on these UMPro30 were. We returned to Dave Matthews – Stay or Leave and it was a delight once more. The vocal clarity was so nice on everything we listened to and the electric guitar sound was like something we would hear playing at a live venue.

For a while we thought these might only be perfect for rock/guitar/vocal music and then we put through the Macklemore – Jimy Iovine track, the Sohn – Lights track and the Kimbra – Settle Down track and really decided these IEM’s could handle anything.

To be completely fair there were times we did think the tone was so clear and sharp that there were frequencies in the low mids that were lacking some depth a touch. The Snare Drum sounds real but almost too narrow at rare moments. Still, the thing we find hardest to get sounding good through headphones is the snare drum so it’s still a step up for us.

High Notes (Treble)

Lovely and so nicely balanced with the Mids and Bass. Crispness is a gift for earphones – a crisp sound that doesn’t lose it’s depth. That’s what we got here. We have an overdrive pedal called the Ibanez Tube Screamer – TS-9. If you know the pedal, you’ll know what we mean about crisp but deep tone.

Not sure how to tell you more here other than that the treble is there and you should be happy with what it brings to the sound signature. There isn’t a great deal of sibilance which would sometimes be nice, but they still bring through vocal ‘at-the-mic’ sounds well. 

PRAT (Pace, Rhythm and Timing)

Oh yeah, they got PRAT. On a walk by the seawall in Vancouver we couldn’t help but almost dance to some of the tracks we walked through. These are on time, every time.

EQ (Emotional Quotient)

One of the factors we consider when testing is whether the headphones make you feel the music. Do you get a surge of happiness, tears, excitement, energy or similar?

We give these a 9/10 on the Good Sounds EQ scale. We did have moments where our feelings were evoked, which we think is a huge part of why you want to spend money on decent earphones.

Noise Isolation

Excellent as all the Westone range. A good supply of foams for all ear types which we love as getting IEMs to fit right can be a beeeatch.

Build Quality

Excellent. No concerns with these crapping out on you. The over the ear moulded curves on these are comfortable and cause no discomfort.

Accessories

Good inclusions. The most important being a great range of foams. They also come with:

  • An EPIC cable with over the ear cable moulds (nice and comfortable).
  • Mini-monitor Vault which is their orange case which we think is the best thing ever for storing your earphones.
  • Cleaning tool.

Westone UM Pro 30 Review Conclusion

These are comfortable IEMs. You could listen to them for long periods without complaint. With the right sized foams for your ears, the sound is alive, exciting and feels like a true-to-life sound rather than a sound profile massaged for the masses. For this reason, you have to be open to explore what these can do.

Don’t switch from your iPhone white earbuds and expect to understand what these headphones are trying to do. They might sound odd at first because they do approach with an authentic take on music but once you get it, you’ll not look back.

From Metallica to Damien Rice, Sohn to Mozart, these deliver. If you are a live musician you will not only consider these great IEM’s, you’ll also really appreciate how they represent each instrument in the mix as natural and balanced as possible.

We’re fans of the UM Pro 30 which you can tell from this review obviously. Are they perfect? No, there are still opportunities here. Are they typical (i.e Beats by Dre)? No, thankfully. Do we like them? Yes. Would we give them top ratings and recommend them to anyone spending $400 or less. Yes.

They come with a two-year manufacturers warranty so you can’t go wrong.

Get the latest price for Westone UM Pro 30 on Amazon

Add your comments or questions below.

Apple TV won’t stay asleep! Solved

So this is a brief post but one of those issues involving Samsung, Yamaha and Apple that you can spend a lifetime trying to find a solution to and getting nowhere.

The issue is was that when I turned my Apple TV off (mine is a 4K but 4th gen also suffer this), it turned itself back on about 5 seconds later. Because I have HDMI-CEC enabled on my devices this caused my HiFi stereo to turn on, and that caused my TV to turn on – all night!

Things that make you go…”I can’t even…”

My set up is a Samsung UHD TV to a Yamaha HiFi Receiver Amp (RX-v481) to the Apple TV 4K. Everything runs through the Yamaha Home Theatre amp via HDMI and all have HDMI-CEC enabled (which is called AnyNET+ in the Samsung TV’s case and in the case of the Apple TV it is in the settings menu called Remotes & Devices -> Control TV’s and Receivers)

Here are some of the solutions I read about that didn’t work for me:

  1. Apple TV remote reactivated the Apple TV magically so run it flat and test if that is the case. (Didn’t try it, just seemed a bit silly)
  2. Turn off device control on Apple TV (Worked for me but I like having HDMI-CEC control on so didn’t think this was an intelligent solution)
  3. Unplug HDMI cable from TV when going to bed (of course this works…but it’s a bit ‘final’..right? And what a PITA unplugging HDMI cables at night)
  4. Disable HDMI-CEC on TV or Apple TV (like #2 above it doesn’t make sense to pay all this money for devices and then limit their features, but it did work doing it on the Apple TV.)
  5. Samsung TV remote disabling (this wasn’t on in my case)

The solution for me was an issue with Home Assistant. If you’re not familiar with it, it is an open source home automation set up which allows you to control smart devices and other networked hardware/software like TVs, Apple TVs, Stereo’s and more. You can run it from a Rasberry Pi computer.

What was happening is that Home Assistant polls all the devices regularly. This means it sends little signals out to devices to check in on what they are doing or playing at that time (movies/music), so you can control them from the Home Assistant system directly.

So, when I tell Alexa to turn off the TV (which is a command that triggers my Harmony Hub to turn off the TV, Stereo and Apple TV) it would turn it all off BUT then the Apple TV would turn on again when Home Assistant pinged it a few seconds later, then the Apple TV would trigger an HDMI-CEC command to turn on the HiFi Stereo, which would then tell the TV to turn on. So every time I turned it all off, it all turned on again. The result being the TV stayed on all night without us knowing about it as we walked out before it all triggered. 🤦

It’s important to understand it is likely it’s NOT the Apple TV’s fault

There is a lot of frustration with Samsung TV’s and Apple TV units for seemingly having this issue most. The thing I learned from trying all the tricks under the sun is that something is making the Apple TV turn back on. If you have it connected to a TV then perhaps it is that, or Home Assistant in my case, or some other signal calling to the Apple TV. There is a lot of shade being thrown at Apple but it seems more likely it’s not an Apple TV issue directly – or a bug as such.

Quick Solution

Try turning off the HDMI-CEC feature in the Apple TV by going to Preferences -> Remotes & Devices -> then Control TV’s & Receivers and change it to off.

Screenshot of the HDMI-CEC settings for Apple TV
Enabling / Disabling the HDMI-CEC settings on the Apple TV 4K

See if that works. Any other tips please share below as there is no doubt it is going to help someone.

Westone W40 Review

We started this review of the Westone W40 on the SkyTrain here in Vancouver to put it through real-life testing. We’ve been using the Westone W60 for a few weeks to put it through its paces so we were excited to see what the W40 could deliver with 4 drivers as opposed to the W60’s 6 BA drivers. The W40 comes with 4 balanced armature drivers and a three-way crossover. The sound is natural, balanced and pleasing.

After putting them in and ensuring a good seal the sounds of the train melted away and were left with a quiet listening environment. We can’t say again how important it is that you get a good seal on any pair of IEM’s. Without it you’re wasting 90% of the money you spent on them. For our ears we used the Westone black ear foam inserts, we have relatively small ear canals. We continued to listen through the day – on the train, at the office, watching the apple launch event (iWatch) and then music in office again.

Early sum up: all first impressions were entirely favourable. The W40 sound fantastic. The bass is there and tight. The mids and highs are a strong point and stand out wonderfully. The sounds stage is deep, clear and wide. These are a very strong contenders for the ~$500 mark and won’t disappoint.

Bass Notes

The bass in the W40 is good, and balanced. Nothing is inflated and it’s pretty true to what a balanced IEM will deliver. We are quite critical on bass in IEM’s but these delivered plenty for what we needed. It’s tight, quick and firm.

Mid Notes

The mid notes is where a lot of the magic happens with the W40. The bass supports it nicely and leaves room for a spacious and deep soundstage. The placement of instruments, voices and stereo effects are so clear. Close your eyes and you’ll be in the studio or at the concert picking where in the room people are singing or playing from. We played The XX, Damien Rice, Live, Eminem, Angus & Julia Stone, Radiohead, Imagine Dragons, Macklemore, Oh Sleeper and more – these stood up well to it all. There are few IEM’s we’ve heard at this price that do deliver such a great sound separation.

High Notes

Very sweet. Nice sibilance and real clear ability to hear the reverb from the final missing and mastering process.

P.R.A.T

On time, every time. These keep everything together nicely and you never feel out of time or sync.

EQ (Emotional Quotient)

We sometimes find it hard to get the Emotional Quotient from well balanced IEM’s but the W40 leave us with a different result. One of our other customers Alan once described his audio experience with the audio engine B2 that seems appropriate here. He put on music, intending to listen to one track and try other reference tracks. Instead he put on one track and kept listening and listening and listening until one, two, three albums had passed by. It was just so easy and so enjoyable. Low fatigue and lots of comfort.

W40 Accessories

Every Westone W series set of earphones comes with a full range of great accessories. You get your choice of 3 different faceplate colours. 2 cables, one has the 3 button iphone (other phones) controls on it which is perfect for the busy business person who wants great music but also has to speak on the phone a lot. You also get the Westone vault which is a bright, tough travel/storage case.

Westone W40 review conclusion

We love the W40. It’s not often we say that. It makes sense as we really like the W60 too – which is the top of the line for the W series with 6 drivers. If you can’t reach to ~$1,000 in the Westone line then these at ~$500 will be a great compliment to your musical audio arsenal. You get great accessories, a strong warranty proposition and a super sounding IEM.

View more of the Westone W40 and see more reviews

Beyerdynamic DT 1350 Review

Honest. That’s how we’d describe the DT 1350 (80 ohms). They are raw, balanced, honest and we love ’em. Perfect for a monitoring, recording and DJ focused headphone. But don’t think you can’t enjoy these for regular listening though, we’ve been having a blast revisiting old tracks and music and rediscovering what the original mastering and recording engineers were going for. These things bring you audio as if it was mixed straight from the audio control booth to your ears. And somewhere in there the word Tesla was used which sounds very impressive, right? The addition of the Tesla term here relates to the the strength of the magnetic field, and the influence it had on Eugen Beyer in his inventions around HiFi headphones.

As a musician whose recorded a lot, these things made the studio come alive in my ears. Kimbra singing The Build Up was so much fun and delightful we couldn’t help but smile. If you want an idea of how these beyerdynamics bring out audio you’ve not enjoyed before, then put on Accidental Babies by Damien Rice and listen to the sustain in the last Piano chord ring and resonate and ring and resonate – beautiful.

We reviewed the DT 1350 using our iPhone Plus with no other power support to see how the 80 ohms would do – so far, no complaints at all. We’d have no trouble listening to these on the Skytrain on a commute, or at our desks at work. In the studio – even better.

The noise cancellation was better than we expected. While these are a closed back headphone, they are also Supraaural so they sit on your ears rather than Circumaural which sit over your ears. This can mean a tighter, closer sound than a circumaural headphone might offer. We don’t always find supraaural heapdhones that comfortable, but didn’t have any complaints with these. There is a lot of flexibility in the headband which helps. Not only can you adjust the height, but you can open the top band like a fan which makes 2 separate head bands.

Bass is tight – not dominant but really solid. Skrillex’s bass dropping antics were more musical than we’ve previously experienced and the DT 1350 brought rock and metal tracks to the fore, combining the tight kick drum and tight guitar tones for a great overall experience.

It took a good 30 minutes of listening to different tracks before we really felt we really ‘got’ these headphones. As a pro studio headphone, you can’t go into them expecting a consumer tuned set of cans. These are designed for pro use, and as such need to be understood as such – it’s well balanced and you’re going to get all the frequencies working together, there is no artificial boosting of signals to flatten out weak spots – you get what you would direct from the booth, which we liked.

Acoustic tracks like Mumford & Sons were superb, Amy MacDonalds guitar was so real we felt we could reach out and pluck the strings ourselves.

DT 1350 Conclusion

Overall these are a fabulous headphone for music lovers or recording engineers/recording musicians. For the price, you’re going to find it hard to find a more honest headphone. Bassheads need not apply – these are tight, raw, alive but balanced. You’re not going to get inflated bass here. The DT 1350 are up close and in your face audio that brings the authenticity of instruments to life. The sound stage is not particularly wide but we found this to be more true to life and alive.

We tried Jazz, Acoustic, Folk, Rock, Metal, Screamo, Classical, Dubstep and more and, to be honest, it was all good.
If you are listening to real instruments, these will make sure they still sound real in your ears. It’s silly we’re still blabbing on about these but for the price, we’re a little giddy.

Enough! If you own these or have questions ask them below.

Learn more about the beyerdynamic DT 1350 and see more reviews